NFL Power Rankings: What Is the Best Franchise of the Last 20 Years?

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NFL Power Rankings: What Is the Best Franchise of the Last 20 Years?
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

We still have a few weeks before the regular season starts so I thought I would do something a little different with my NFL Power Rankings this week.

Instead of just rating the NFL’s 32 franchises based on where they stand in the current league hierarchy, I thought I would dig back a little deeper and produce a ranking of how each franchise has performed over the last 20 years.

I arbitrarily considered the period of 1992-2011 for no other reason than it was an even 20 seasons. And during that time I had two other ground rules:

  1. I docked the expansion teams for not having a full 20 years. That’s fair.
  2. I didn’t lend any more weight to teams having success in the last five or 10 years. (I know that these days no one seems to remember things that happened more than five minutes ago, but the fact is a conference title won in 1994 or 1997 was just as difficult—if not more—to win than one in 2010.)

I tried to mix in empirical data along with my more subjective view from a fan’s perspective, as in, “How enjoyable would it have been to be a fan of this team over the last 20 years?” I continually came back to one central question throughout putting this together: is it better to be a fan of a team that is continually good and annually competitive but that never quite makes it over the hump, or is it better to be a fan of a team that has a couple great years but then is mostly terrible the rest of the time?

The perfect comparison is a Titans fan versus a Rams fan. Tennessee has been exceptionally consistent and very successful over the last 20 regular seasons. But they only made one Super Bowl and they lost. The Rams have been pathetic and mostly irrelevant for most of the last 20 years. But for about a four-year stretch they were incredible, winning one Super Bowl title and two conference championships.

So which is better? I suppose that debate is at the heart of these power rankings, and you’ll see how things could have played out differently for one or two franchises over the past two decades if The Big Game had just gone a little differently. 

With all that in mind, here are my NFL Power Rankings for franchises over the last 20 years:

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